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Carlos Sainz

Sainz Year One: How other Ferrari drivers did in their first F1 season at Maranello

Carlos Sainz is about to embark on his first season with Ferrari, but will he fare better or worse than these drivers did in their debut F1 season with the Italian outfit?

Sainz Ferrari
To news overview © Ferrari

Carlos Sainz is about to make arguably the biggest step in his Formula 1 career to date, with 2021 marking his debut season at Ferrari following his switch from McLaren. The Spaniard joins the team at what could be a challenging time; 2020 was not an easy season for the red cars, and they will certainly be hoping to make their way back towards the front of the grid this year. It might be a big task but it isn't one that Sainz is daunted by.

“Every single team goes through difficult moments at some point, it’s part of Formula 1,” Sainz was recently quoted by GPFans. “What really matters is the ability to bounce back. History shows that teams that won in the past are capable of being competitive again. Ferrari is the most successful team in the history of our sport and there is a reason behind that.

“If there is a team on the grid that can fight back to the top, it is Ferrari. I have full confidence in the project and, even though the process might take some time, I’m sure the team will eventually return to its winning ways."

Fighting talk indeed. But how will Sainz fare in his debut year at Ferrari compared to his predecessors?

Here's how previous racers got on in their first season with the Scuderia.

Charles Leclerc

Let's start with Ferrari's most recent new recruit before Sainz - and the man who will be the Spaniard's teammate - Charles Leclerc. Leclerc's move to Ferrari in 2019 perhaps came as a surprise to some; the Monegasque made the switch after only one year in Formula 1 at Sauber, and it was previously uncommon for the Italian team to hire a driver who was practically a rookie.

Leclerc made up for his lack of experience by quickly putting in some impressive performances at Ferrari. After finishing fifth in the season opener at Australia, the new recruit took his debut pole position at the next race in Bahrain. He went on to lead much of the race, before an engine problem just 10 laps from the end forced Leclerc to slip back. Despite the heartbreak, he still managed to finish third and thus claimed his first podium finish.

Some highs and lows followed. A down point came at Azerbaijan, where the Monegasque crashed in qualifying and memorably declared himself to be "stupid" over the team radio. He eventually scored his first grand prix victory at the Belgian Grand Prix, and followed that up with an impressive win from pole position in Italy.

Leclerc went on to come out on top in the battle with teammate Sebastian Vettel, making him the first driver to outscore the German as his Ferrari teammate. The new star finished the year in fourth place in the drivers' championship ahead of Vettel in fifth. This impressive debut surely contributed towards the team's decision to drop Vettel for 2021.

Sebastian Vettel

Despite the difficult end to his relationship with Ferrari in 2020, Vettel joined the team back in 2015 with plenty of hope and promise. The German finished his first race in the red car in third place, and followed this up with his debut win for the team at the next grand prix in Malaysia. It marked a special moment for both parties; Vettel had failed to win a race during his final season with Red Bull in 2014, whilst Ferrari had not seen one of their drivers stand on the top step since 2013.

The team struggled to compete at the level of the dominant Mercedes during 2015, and Vettel's next victory did not come until the Hungarian Grand Prix. He went on to win again in Singapore, and finished on the podium 13 times during the season. At the end of the year he finished the drivers' championship in third place, but seemed happy with what he had achieved.

"If you think about where we were only one year ago, this has been a miracle season," the four-times world champion said of his debut with Ferrari. "I can’t think of any other team which improved so much over a year."

Sadly this promise didn't continue into 2016, a year in which Vettel did not win a race.

			© Ferrari
	© Ferrari

Fernando Alonso

Any driver looking for inspiration in making their debut at Ferrari should perhaps look to Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard immediately made an impression by winning his first ever race with the team at the Bahrain Grand Prix in 2010, and went on to become embroiled in a thrilling championship battle with fellow world champions Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel, as well as Vettel's Red Bull teammate Mark Webber.

Alonso won five races throughout the year, with most of those coming towards the latter end of the season. His impressive form led to him arriving at the final race of the year as championship leader - but unfortunately things unravelled in Abu Dhabi. Ferrari made a tactical error which resulted in Alonso finishing the race down in seventh place, handing the title to Sebastian Vettel. The Spaniard had lost out by just four points, and despite the initial promise was never able to secure his much-desired third world championship during his five-year stint with the Scuderia.

			© Ferrari
	© Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen

Kimi Raikkonen is perhaps unique in that he has had two debuts with Ferrari, having been with the team for two stints. His first ever race with the Italian squad came at the Australian Grand Prix in 2007 and the Iceman had big shoes to fill, having replaced the legendary Michael Schumacher. Fortunately the pressure didn't seem to affect the Finn and he won the season opener.

Whilst the McLaren team proved highly competitive, the inter-team rivalry between their drivers Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton perhaps contributed to Raikkonen and Ferrari ultimately managing to get the better of the British squad. Raikkonen won six races during the year and managed to clinch the drivers' world title with victory at the final race of the season in Brazil. The Finn won by just one point in what would - to date - become his only championship win.

Raikkonen remained with Ferrari for another two years, but later returned to the Italian outfit in 2014.


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